The Bitter Orange Tree

seville orange

Amongst the most useful citruses in perfumery is the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium subspecies amara). The plant can be extracted for different ingredients. The cold-pressed fruit peel produces bitter orange or bigarade oil. The steam-distilled leaves and small branches yield petitgrain oil, whereas their solvent-extraction produces orange leaf absolute. As for the flowers, they can be steam-distilled to produce neroli oil or extracted by solvent to produce orange blossom absolute.


Of course, the flowers and leaves of other citruses can be similarly extracted. For example, the sweet orange tree (Citrus sinensis), whose fruit peel is cold-pressed to give sweet orange oil, can yield neroli oil by steam distillation or orange blossom absolute by solvent extraction — albeit of inferior qualities.

It is the bitter orange tree that contributes significantly to the typically used orange blossom absolute and neroli oil. Despite coming from the same plant, the composition of bigarade oil, petitgrain oil, orange leaf absolute, orange blossom absolute, and neroli oil each differs markedly. I will discuss each of these ingredients in the upcoming posts.

Part 1: Bigarade or bitter orange oil


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